Posts Tagged ‘solera’

lambic solera update

Monday, January 21st, 2013

sweet nectar

ten months have passed since I brewed and racked over sixty gallons of lambic into a neutral french oak barrel.  this weekend curiosity got the better of me and I decided to sneak a sample.

  • after contemplating multiple sampling techniques, I decided to avoid unnecessary oxygenation by pulling a my sample from a small hole drilled into the barrel head.  from what I have read, vinnie cilurzo of russian river pioneered this method, and his advice proved to be right on the money.  you can check out funk factory’s tutorial as well (however, I would drill the hole about halfway up to reduce the force of the sample stream).  also, be sure to be ready with a glass and stainless nail at hand before drilling (mise en place!).
  • my sample came in at a gravity of 1.005 (5.45% abv).  I took the following notes:
    • lambic solera
    • appearance: pale gold with sediment in suspension
    • aroma: assertive barnyard with lots of funk
    • taste: tannic with a complex funk up front and a lemony, acidic finish
    • overall: I’m very happy where this is headed at 10 months, and am excited to see further development (increased intensity in flavors/aroma?)
  •   It’s going to be hard to hold out for another couple of months with this one, but I have a good feeling it will be worth the wait… 





ready for the next sample

apricot lambic shootout

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

pouring fou' foune

after a couple of months in the bottle, it was finally time to try out my apricot lambic.


  • cantillon fou’ foune 2008
  • appearance: great carbonation, turbid, white head that quickly fades to lacing
  • aroma: intense, complex, dirty barnyard funk
  • taste: bracing acidity, slight sticky stone fruit evident on finish
  • overall: enjoyable, but the high acid level made this beer far from sessionable.


  • house apricot lambic
  • appearance: light straw color, crystal clear, solid carbonation, quickly vanishing head
  • aroma: sweet ripe apricot, lingering funk
  • taste: assertive complex funk with tart apricot and a tangy, dry finish with a fresh, complex acidity.  very drinkable.
  • overall: I can’t think of a tastier beer I’ve made to date, really happy with this one.  I’m excited to take my first solera barrel pull soon to experiment with other local fruit.


my apricot lambic


another pour               best friends

apricot lambic, ladyface ale companie

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

after topping up my lambic solera barrel with a gallon or two of my turbid mash lambic, I had a couple of gallons left over to mess around with.

  • remembering that I had harvested and frozen some local apricots from last season, I chopped them up, tossed them in a three-gallon fermenter, and racked a little over two gallons of lambic onto them.
  • my inspiration came from cantillon’s excellent fou’ foune, an apricot lambic that has become impossible to find around these parts.  I debated including the pits of the fruit in the fermenter, as they are supposed to impart a more intense apricot flavor, but after reading some articles about cyanide (read the comments!) I decided against it.  I’m planning on keeping the lambic on the fruit from six months to a year, based on my schedule and the results of occasional tastings.

on another note, after dropping off a couple bottles of my winter saison in culver city for a homebrew competition, AP and I continued north to agoura hills and ladyface ale companie.

  • in addition to a great bar and even better outdoor patio, ladyface has a comprehensive tap list, with great guest taps and numerous in-house brews.  after running through a sampler flight of all their offerings, standouts included their chesebro IPA on cask and their russian lullaby imperial stout.  I enjoyed their barrel-aged trebuchet as well, especially sitting outside on a hot day, but I felt as though something was missing from the beer (it felt a little one-dimensional and light, with a very slight sourness).
  • I found out later that the fermentation was intentionally limited to lacto to avoid any “barnyard” character, which I find a little confusing for a farmhouse beer.  also, the beer was close to 9% and the lacto was likely added after primary fermentation, which also seems odd to me, since lacto has trouble after around a 7% abv environment.  despite these small critiques, ladyface definitely delivered an enjoyable experience, and I look forward to returning the next time I am in the area.


santa barbara barrel retrieval

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

last weekend AP and I headed up north to seal the deal on a barrel for my lambic solera project.

  • we drove north of santa barbara to quality wine barrels in arroyo grande where we picked up a neutral barrel.  the seguin moreau french oak bordeaux barrel had been previously filled with cabernet sauvignon at both bridlewood winery and lucas and lewellen.  the barrel was steam cleaned and leak tested just prior to our arrival, and drained upside-down in the back of my truck on the drive back to SB.  the staff at quality wine barrels was friendly and patient, and their prices were more than fair – I walked out with a clean barrel, two-barrel steel rack, and bung for around eighty bucks.

after purging the drained barrel with CO2 and plugging it up, we left the hotel room and headed out on our bikes to explore downtown santa barbara.

on sunday afternoon, after fighting a serious rainstorm back down the coast, it was finally time to fill the barrel.

  • after rinsing the barrel once with hot water (making sure the hot water came in contact with the entirely of the barrel interior), I then rinsed the barrel with cold filtered water and let it drain for around fifteen minutes.  AP and I then lugged the beast downstairs, where I purged it again with a healthy dose of CO2 and filled it up, leaving about five gallons of headspace for krausen from the ongoing fermentation of my last two batches.  fermentation ramped up as soon as all the wort was in the barrel, and soon my airlock was shaking like a weight valve on an old pressure cooker.
  • with 106 lbs. of grain, 1.5 lbs. of aged hops, and over 24 hrs. of labor invested, the lambic solera barrel is definitely the crown jewel of my fermentation room.  hopefully the micro-oxygenation and cellobiose feeding it provides will be good to my yeast, bugs, and wort!




lambic solera prep, eagle rock, cabrillo tasting

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

last weekend marked the start of my most ambitious homebrew undertaking yet – the procurement and filling of a 60-gallon solera barrel.

  • since my usual batch size is around 10-13 gallons on a good day, cranking out over 60 gallons of wort appeared *challenging* at first.  however, after some significant research and planning, I decided to suck it up and commit to two 30 gallon brew days.  however, I couldn’t bring myself to engage in a full turbid mash for each session after remembering the significant amount of time associated with the procedure in previous brews.  luckily, I came across jim liddil’s lambic brew page, which proposed some promising turbid mash alternatives for extracting useful dextrins and starches from an unmalted wheat component of the grain bill.  after some number crunching, my final recipe and procedure included the following:
    • GRAIN BILL (15.5 gal wort, 80% efficiency)

16lb belgian pils malt
8 lb american wheat malt
2.5lb unmalted white wheat berries
6 oz aged organic saaz hops (75-90 min*)


-mash 15lbs, 9oz of the pils and the 8lbs of the malted wheat (change up the mash temp for each of the 4 batches – 152F, 153F, 154F, and 155F)
-mash 7oz of the pils and the 2.5 lbs of unmalted wheat at 150F for 30 mins, then add a gallon of boiling water and boil the mixture for 15 mins.
-add the unmalted wheat mash and liquid to the main mash, stir, and sparge with 180+F water (60-75 mins)
-end up with 18 gals of wort (13 in keggle, 5 in turkey fryer), boil for 60-90 mins until 3 gals boiled off (2 in keggle, 1 in fryer)
-chill and pitch yeast – do not aerate

  • some notes from my first of two brewdays – one gallon of water at 161F will result in a mash temp of 150 for the raw wheat and pils (I did the mash on the stovetop).  each of the four batches have a different mash temp to vary the sugar chains available to the yeast and bugs over the years.  adding the viscous unmalted mash to the main mash may result in a stuck sparge (it did for me) – pump hot water through the dip tube to help clear out the pickup and add plenty of rice hulls.
  • after my first mash stuck upon adding the unmalted malt mash, I decided to put just the wort from the unmalted mash into the main mash tun the second time around.  there was no stuck sparge as a result, but my OG took a small hit (batch 1 OG: 1.049/batch 2 OG: 1.046).  I’m debating whether to risk another stuck mash to get an improved efficiency for my last 2 batches, or to just dump the unmalted wort directly into the brew kettle and bypass the mash tun altogether.
  • after cooling the wort overnight, I pitched 2 vials of ECY bugfarm VI into the first batch and pitched a variety pack of roselare, lambic blend, and sour mix I into the second batch.  within 24 hours both batches were chugging away, and by this afternoon krausen had blown out the top of both fermenters.  I’m halfway there!

to celebrate the start of the solera project, AP and I headed over to eagle rock for some great food and killer beers.

I also managed to get in a review of my long-anticipated cuvee de cabrillo after a couple months in the bottle:

  • style: strong sour
  • appearance: good carbonation, healthy initial head that turns to light lacing, dark amber/maple syrup color, transparent when held to light
  • aroma: sour cherry with slight earthiness in back, belgian yeast notes evident upon swirling
  • taste: strong tongue-coating sourness with cherries close behind, sweet vanilla oak finish
  • comments: at 11% I am amazed that this is so sour and also drinks so well.  the medium toast french oak imparts a sweet vanilla note that was overwhelming when the beer was fresh in the bottle and not carbed (it tasted like buttered popcorn jellybeans), but this has faded into a pleasing vanilla finish with age and carbonation.  this one was a ton of work, but the results were worth it.